Just this month, we released A Fair Review of the Top Web CMS Platforms - 2018 Edition written by our President, Gary Eisenstein. This article was a continuation of our Fair Review series, joining A Fair Review of the Top .NET eCommerce Solutions as our August 2017 edition and our first installment A Fair Review of the Top .NET CMS Platforms released January 2017.
So far, all three of our Fair Reviews have gained a ton of positive feedback and because of this we will be launching A Fair Review of the Top eCommerce Platforms later this Fall. If you aren’t familiar with the review, here is a quick overview of what the 2018 review entails.
What makes our 2018 review a Fair Review you may ask? Gary explains it perfectly stating: “Aside from being very streamlined and simple to digest in terms of how the information is conveyed, I believe we made the information understandable to readers whether they are novices or seasoned professionals. But most importantly, we compare systems that are in the same market space. What that means is this review focuses on mid-market WCM platforms, which can be an underserved space when mainstream content is normally geared towards small businesses offerings such as WordPress and Joomla! or enterprise offerings such as IBM, Oracle, Adobe, etc. Readers should not be comparing WordPress and Oracle against each other. It simply makes no sense on a budgetary or feature set scale.”
There is a lot of effort that goes into selecting a best fit solution for your organization.You need to be thinking about your technology needs, feature requirements, and budgetary concerns at the very least. It’s also very important that you make sure you put as much debate and planning into selecting the WCM system as you would when it comes to finding the best-fit implementation partner. A good integration team can make or break a project.
This is where Gary’s 5 approaches come into play:
Assessing your current website architecture and environment
Strategize and assisting with the requirements and planning
Provide expert advice and evaluation on a shortlist of best-fit platforms
Help prepare, write and submit a request for proposal (RFP) to the vendors and implementation partners
Review the feasibility of each vendor’s response, assuring they can deliver on the requirements, timeline and budget.
Today, I’m going to be focusing my attention on number 4, the request for proposal (RFP) phase. Being a former Project Manager before joining the CMS-Connected team, I’ve seen plenty of RFP submissions in my time, seeing examples of the good, the bad and the ugly over that time.
How To Create an Effective RFP
An RFP is the face of your company to a potential client so it’s important to compose them well. It’s come as no surprise that good proposals lead to better working relationships, which leads to better projects and outcomes. So what should you include if you want to write and submit an RFP to a potential vendor? What details do vendors need to know about your project?
There's no need to be an expert when it comes to writing an RFP as long as you can define and establish clear goals, provide the right supporting details, and solicit useful information from vendors in return – you’ll be an expert in no time! Being able to lay out a clear and concise need to potential technology and/or implementation partners will also help to streamline the process and reduce the time an otherwise lengthy communication period could have.
Here is my list of the Top-10 RFP Must Haves for Any WCM Selection:
1. Project Summary
The beginning of your RFP should provide a short description of your organization’s mission and projects. This gives the vendor some background and a heavy focus as to the needs of the project and what the proposal’s objectives are.
2. The Background of Your Organization
Here is where you want to describe your organization, what it does, and what you do. You always want to be forward thinking and remember there may be a good chance that the company has never heard of you or they may not be able to figure you out enough by visiting your existing web site (which may be why you need a new website and why have reached out to the potential vendor).
3. Project Overview
Here is where you want to elaborate a bit more on number 1. What are the main business objectives or plan/strategy that you have in mind?
4. Project Scope of Work
This is where the ‘meat’ of the project should be explained. You want to provide more detail about the project. Describe why you are hiring the vendor. For example, with a web redesign project, this may include information on the discovery phase or an explanation of ongoing project guidance.
Your goal here is to describe what limitations or technical requirements you know in advance. Having vague requirements only leads to a lack of communication between both the client and vendor to not be on the same page which can be a costly mistakes to both parties during the project.
6. Project Team
This can include relevant experience and references along with the detailed information about the team or members that will be working on the project.
You should always provide a budget range when creating an RFP or even when responding to an RFP. It’s extremely frustrating when a client states “We have no budget in mind” or “We cannot disclose our budget”. Monetary cost for digital agencies equates to how much time they can invest, and a partner can better posit how they can help you achieve your ultimate business goals with the project and see an effective ROI if they know a range of what a business is willing to spend time to get this done aka how much time/resource the agency can dedicate to the project. If you can’t provide an exact budget, you will want to provide at least a budget-range out of respect for the time that the vendor spends working on a detailed RFP response especially when there’s no guarantee of the accepted contract at the end of the day.
8. Proposal Timeline
You may not know exactly how long your project will take until this is discussed with the vendor, so imposing a hard deadline for the launch of say, a complex web project, can be unrealistic. There is nothing worse than promising your CEO, shareholder(s) or customers that the new project will be launched January 15, at noon for example, only to find out mid-way through that this date is not reasonable. To put it mildly, unmet and pushed back deadlines fly in the physical construction world far better than they ever go over in the digital construction world for all parties involved. The best laid plans almost always have contingencies (see section number 9 below) in case of unsuspected issues that could possibly come up during the project life-cycle. I have always found that milestone deadlines are the best way to go especially with an agile methodology. It’s important to keep both parties moving along in a timely manner, but imposing unreasonable timelines only strengthens the chances of major mistakes occurring.
9. Ongoing Support
Once the project is completed and launched you will want to make sure that your agreement includes ongoing support, training or any additional development that may come up afterwards. This should also always include setting aside a retainer for after your project completion (usually known as a contingency fund for any minor undiscovered details that may occur during the project) or at the very least, an easy way a team can communicate an extra cost incurred and obtain consent before moving forward, however this can halt the production and be costly from a time standpoint.
This section typically reiterates the timeline stated in section number 8 as well contact information for all queries to whom the completed response of the request for proposal should be directed to.
While this list is mainly intended as an overview of the Top-10 RFP must haves for any WCM selection, there are plenty more factors that should be considered that relate more specifically to the project in question, but if I’ve missed any really good ones that you think I should of included please do not hesitate to contact me! We always enjoy receiving feedback and value our audience’s opinions.